Travel and tourism suffers worst employment hit

Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent
·2-min read

Falls in travel and tourism employment during the coronavirus pandemic outweigh increases in other industries, new figures show.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows the number of people employed in travel and tourism in the UK was 0.6% lower between April and June 2020 than during the same period in 2019.

Over the same timescale, employment across all other industries rose by 0.2%.

HEALTH Coronavirus Employment
(PA Graphics)

Between July and September, travel and tourism employment declined by 0.8% year-on-year, whereas other industries experienced a growth of 0.1%.

The ONS data also shows that 45% of travel and tourism workers in late January were on furlough, compared with 12% of those in other sectors.

Sectors categorised as travel and tourism include passenger transport, airlines, hotels, restaurants, travel agents, museums and sports facilities.

These have also been hit hard during the virus crisis by a collapse in demand and the imposition of Government restrictions.

HEALTH Coronavirus Employment
(PA Graphics)

Among the firms to announce job cuts are British Airways (12,000 jobs), Whitbread (6,000 jobs), the National Trust (1,300 jobs) and Hays Travel (up to 878 jobs).

More than 20 travel companies with UK operations have gone bust since March 2020, including STA Travel, Specialist Leisure Group – which ran brands such as coach operator Shearings – and Cruise & Maritime Voyages.

The ONS said turnover in travel and tourism businesses in May last year was just 26% of the level recorded three months earlier, compared with 74% for other industries.

Tourists on a near empty top deck on the London Big Bus open-top tour (Aaron Chown/PA)
A near empty top deck on the London Big Bus open-top tour (Aaron Chown/PA)

Jess Brooks, founder of Devon-based travel firm Eternal Landscapes, which specialises in trips to Mongolia, said the sector was “absolutely decimated” just days after coronavirus hit the UK.

She continued: “It has now been a full year without any income and our savings pot is empty. We’ve got nothing left.

“The uncertainty is emotionally brutal and we cannot make plans as we have no way of knowing when and to what extent our business will return.”

Twickenham
Enforced closures at stadiums around the UK have hit the sports travel market hard (David Davies/PA)

Louis Bollard, who created Play Away Stay Away, an online community to connect travelling sports fans with local accommodation hosts, said: “Until March 2020, we were getting strong month-on-month membership increases and then everything just went off a cliff.

“We were down 85% in one month and, due to the ongoing suspension of supporters at matches, we still haven’t recovered almost a year on.

“Luckily, I’ve been able to keep a tight lid on expenses and stay afloat for when fans are eventually allowed to travel again. But it’s still hard to plan anything in earnest because of the nature of the pandemic and uncertainty created by the new strains.”